This week I have been making test pieces; some for commissions but others using clays which people have brought me to experiment with. The results have been mixed but some have been really lovely and I am excited about the promise which they hold.
Of particular note is a piece using material from the hole which was dug last winter outside my family home of 50 years by the men who were replacing the gas main. They were digging it round when I thought it should have been square! and they looked at me as if I had lost my marbles when I asked them to let me have some of the material from the bottom of it but I think I might be going to get the last laugh!
It is really important to me that this material can be worked into a thing of beauty. The hole from which it came was directly outside the front gate to the home that my parents bought when I was ten years old. My siblings and I spent our formative years living here; I got married from this house; both my children were baptised from this house. Copious tears and shrieks of laughter have been shed around the kitchen table here and now it is being sold.
In fact, indirectly, the hole is involved in the sale of our home. If it had not been for the gas men digging it, Dad would have had no trouble parking his car and the con men who came to his aid, and then abused his trust by subjecting him to a dreadful scam, would not have upset his equilibrium to such an extent that he was no longer able to stay there surrounded by happy memories.
So this material is for a commission of sorts: Its for me! The finished piece will take pride of place somewhere in my home. I think I might even build a special shelf for it. I don’t exactly want a shrine for my childhood. It was good, but not that good! I just feel pleased at the idea of having something so closely related to so many happy memories in full view.
This week I have been enjoying catching up on a number of commissions. Some have been in the pipeline for a while, others are the result of discussions held with visitors to the Wimbledon Open Studios last month.
It is a wonderful experience to be creating a special piece for somebody and yet, at the same time, it is slightly daunting. For much of my work to date, the only person that I have had to please has been myself. I have been completely free to make decisions about how tall, how wide, how much to scrape back and so on. I have not really had to think too much about whether one particular person will like it, as long as somebody does, that’s ok. Theoretically the same goes when you are working to someone else’s contract. You are the artist. They are paying you to do what you do. Yet there is a huge responsibility to get it just right for them and this does add to the pressure.
This week, one of the pieces I have been focussing on is a wedding present. I cannot say much about it, just in case it blows the element of surprise. What I can say is that there is something delightful about making a piece which will be a permanent reminder of a very special event. All the time that I have been with it I have been conscious of an awareness of the people for whom I am making it; those who have commissioned it and also those who will be the recipients. This has guided every movement. Will they like the way the line flows there? Will that edge excite them when they realise what they can see beyond it? If I remove this line and smooth that down a bit, will it be more evocative of the place, the time, the memory which was imagined in the initial concept?
Now that these pieces are in the kiln I find that I am more excited than ever to get back and see how they have come out. I am longing to give them to the people who asked for them and to watch their expressions. They think they know what they are getting but they have had to trust me with their memories, their emotions, their special places and that has made me feel extremely privileged. I just hope that I can prove myself worthy of that trust.